Tuesday, October 26, 2010

La Fontaine: The Wolf and the Lean Dog

A troutling, some time since,
Endeavour'd vainly to convince
A hungry fisherman
Of his unfitness for the frying-pan.
That controversy made it plain
That letting go a good secure,
In hope of future gain,
Is but imprudence pure.
The fisherman had reason good--
The troutling did the best he could--
Both argued for their lives.
Now, if my present purpose thrives,
I'll prop my former proposition
By building on a small addition.
A certain wolf, in point of wit
The prudent fisher's opposite,
A dog once finding far astray,
Prepared to take him as his prey.
The dog his leanness pled;
'Your lordship, sure,' he said,
'Cannot be very eager
To eat a dog so meagre.
To wait a little do not grudge:
The wedding of my master's only daughter
Will cause of fatted calves and fowls a slaughter;
And then, as you yourself can judge,
I cannot help becoming fatter.'
The wolf, believing, waived the matter,
And so, some days therefrom,
Return'd with sole design to see
If fat enough his dog might be.
The rogue was now at home:
He saw the hunter through the fence.
'My friend,' said he, 'please wait;
I'll be with you a moment hence,
And fetch our porter of the gate.'
This porter was a dog immense,
That left to wolves no future tense.
Suspicion gave our wolf a jog,--
It might not be so safely tamper'd.
'My service to your porter dog,'
Was his reply, as off he scamper'd.
His legs proved better than his head,
And saved him life to learn his trade.

Source: Wright's translation of La Fontaine, Fable 9.10.

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